So I’m tooling around FDL and I read this cheery post by Christy Hardin Smith. La la la la Obamas plant a garden at the White House hooray!
The Obamas will plant a garden at the White House, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during WWII. Now that is some change I can fully believe in:
And then I made the mistake of clicking through to the happy article about the happy visit to the White House of some wholesome common sense and I fully expect to see Alice Waters dancing on a table, and I read these words in this order in the motherfucking Washington Post:
President Obama famously learned the political perils of being too familiar with “elite” vegetables such as arugula.
I’d worry more about Obama learning the political perils of being too familiar with “elite” vegetables like Timothy Geithner, who may yet turn out to be a member of the Animal Kingdom. Jesus Donkeypunching Christ, “elite” vegetables? “ELITE” VEGETABLES?
Okay, let’s take this slowly for the They Come Out Of A Can crowd: when seeds and fertilizer love each other in a certain way, in the presence of water and dirt and with sunshine and time, little sprouts turn into bushes, trees and vines that flower and fruit, and – voila! – vegetables ripen, from the lowly potato – though not the potatoe – to majestic corn. Arugula is freaking lettuce. Everyone’s eaten lettuce. Italians everywhere have just decided not to invite the reporter to dinner, fearful of exposing Ms Jane Black to an “elitist” wheat dish called macaroni.
In an unrelated bit of eye-opening hogwash, someone “owns” Colorado’s rainwater, and has for more than 100 years.
But according to the state of Colorado, the rain that falls on [Kris] Holstrom’s property is not hers to keep. It should be allowed to fall to the ground and flow unimpeded into surrounding creeks and streams, the law states, to become the property of farmers, ranchers, developers and water agencies that have bought the rights to those waterways.
What Holstrom does is called rainwater harvesting. It’s a practice that dates back to the dawn of civilization, and is increasingly in vogue among environmentalists and others who pursue sustainable lifestyles. They collect varying amounts of water, depending on the rainfall and the vessels they collect it in. The only risk involved is losing it to evaporation. Or running afoul of Western states’ water laws.
Those laws, some of them more than a century old, have governed the development of the region since pioneer days.
“If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. “We get into a very detailed accounting on every little drop.”
Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource.
“Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river,” Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers. “Everything always starts with one little bite at a time.”
What what what? What what? An insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource – I read that over and over. Stealing water from the sky. Stealing it. From the sky. What in glamorous tarnation is going on in that man’s head?
Organic farmers and urban dreamers aren’t the only people pushing to legalize water harvesting. Developer Harold Smethills wants to build more than 10,000 homes southwest of Denver that would be supplied by giant cisterns that capture the rain that falls on the 3,200-acre subdivision. He supports the change in Colorado law.
“We believe there is something to rainwater harvesting,” Smethills said. “We believe it makes economic sense.”
Collected rainwater is generally considered “gray water,” or water that is not reliably pure enough to drink but can be used to water yards, flush toilets and power heaters. In some states, developers try to include a network of cisterns and catchment pools in every subdivision, but in others, those who catch the rain tend to do so covertly.
In Colorado, rights to bodies of water are held by entities who get preference based on the dates of their claims. Like many other Western states, Colorado has more claims than available water, and even those who hold rights dating back to the late 19th century sometimes find they do not get all of the water they should.
“If I decide to [take rainwater] in 2009, somewhere, maybe 100 miles downstream, there’s a water right that outdates me by 100 years” that’s losing water, said Kevin Rein, assistant state engineer.
State Sen. Chris Romer found out about this facet of state water policy when he built his ecological dream house in Denver, entirely powered by solar energy. He wanted to install a system to catch rainwater, but the state said it couldn’t be permitted.
“It was stunning to me that this common-sense thing couldn’t be done,” said Romer, a Democrat. He sponsored a bill last year to allow water harvesting, but it did not pass.
“Welcome to water politics in Colorado,” Romer said. “You don’t touch my gun, you don’t touch my whiskey, and you don’t touch my water.”
Romer and Republican state Rep. Marsha Looper introduced bills this year to allow harvesting in certain circumstances. Armed with a study that shows that 97% of rainwater that falls on the soil never makes it to streams, they propose to allow harvesting in 11 pilot projects in urban areas, and for rural users like Kris Holstrom whose wells are depleted by drought.
Could Michelle Obama install some rain barrels, too?
Seriously, last weekend, I stood at the customer service counter the Lowe’s on Route 18 in East Brunswick, NJ and explained to five different employees, with various titles on their Hi, I’m ____ name tags, that I would like to be able to walk into their embarrassingly huge garden section and walk out with rain barrels. I need at least four of them, I explained, and to have them shipped to my house would cost as much as a fifth rain barrel. I would prefer, I repeated and repeated, to pay Lowe’s for rain barrels and leave. Not one of them saw there might be some profit to Lowe’s to carry the very specific thing a customer was asking to buy four of. No, really.
Manager: At corporate, they don’t think it’s a good idea to carry something we might sell only once a year.
Tata: Water is expensive. This is a good guard against drought, and you have a lot of small farms around here.
Manager: Maybe you could try our website.
Tata: Did you not hear me explain about the shipping charges? I want to be able to come here, pick out the kind I want, pay you and leave. I want to be able to look at them and see them before they are at my house.
Manager: Some things are just decided at corporate.
Tata: Well, they decided wrongly.
I feel kind of silly hoping simple, obvious things can go right.